|Author/Contributor(s):||Huysmans, Joris Karl ; Vicari, Justin|
A mordantly satiric and cruel account of bourgeois greedOriginally published in book form in French in 1887, Joris-Karl Huysmans' A Dilemma remains a particularly nasty little tale, a mordantly satiric and cruel account of bourgeois greed and manipulation that holds up as clear a mirror to today's neoliberalist times as it did to the French fin-de-siècle. Written smack in-between Huysmans' most famous works--his 1881 Against Nature, which came to define the Decadent movement, and his 1891 exploration of Satanism, Down There--A Dilemma presents some of Huysmans' most memorable characters, including Madame Champagne, the self-appointed Parisian protector of women in need, and the carnal would-be sophisticate notary Le Ponsart, who wages a war of words with the bereft pregnant mistress of his deceased grandson with devastating consequences. In its unflinching portrayal of how authoritarian language can be used and abused as a weapon, this novella stands as Huysmans' indictment of the underlying crime of the novel itself: a language apparatus employed to maintain the appetites of the ruling class. Earning a wage through a career in the French civil service, Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) quietly explored the extremes of human nature and artifice through a series of books that influenced a number of different literary movements: from the grey and grimy Naturalism of books like Marthe and Downstream to the cornerstones of the Decadent movement, Against Nature and the Satanist classic Down There, the dream-ridden Surrealist favorite, Becalmed, and his Catholic novels, The Cathedral and The Oblate.